Pageant Fever

It looks like I will soon get my first taste of the drag pageant stage in this year’s Faux Queen Pageant in San Francisco! Could I be the first Australian to enter? If so then I definitely think there should be some sort of “best Australian contestant” prize.

I’m planning to travel to the USA to meet with faux queens for face to face interviews and participate in the annual Faux Queen Pageant. Bea Dazzler, the event’s organiser, has kindly invited me to be involved and I couldn’t be more excited.

All this pageant fever has stirred up a faint memory I have of my first and only pageant experience. I was only a toddler and I don’t remember the event, but I do recall the stories and the photos. I rang my mum to check the facts. She explained to me that I was entered in the Cracker Jack Carnival Baby Show, which was in the mid 80s. In mum’s words, she entered me because like all mothers she thought she had the most beautiful baby. Nawwww that’s so sweet. It turns out though, and these are my words now, that I had a bit of a permanently stunned look about me and didn’t photograph too well.  I didn’t win, I don’t even think I came close and my mum was horrified at the bitchy, judgemental attitudes of the judges and other mums. There was no Australian Idol or X Factor in those days to give her fair warning. My sister and I were never entered in a pageant or pageant-like event again.

As a little nugget of proof and also for “throw back” fun, I’ll share these pictures with you. crackerjack-carnival-1-001-(1)

In my opinion, there are a surprisingly large number of mums and bubs and I’m not totally sure a XXXX beer tent is appropriate for a baby beauty pageant…. In one of the photos you can see my gorgeous mum trying to put me onto the blue judgement sheet. I think I’m whispering to her, “Hey Mum this is weirdly like the Bub’s Idol episode of Kath & Kim… Noice!”

The Faux Queen Pageant (FQP) will be my first experience of pageantry since the Baby Show of the 1980s. Similarly, I am expecting hideous perms, blue eye shadow and loud prints.

I must be honest and say, possible due to my lack of experience, my opinion of pageantry is pretty jaded and negative. My knowledge of them comes mostly from lazy Saturdays watching Miss Teen USA when the only other TV choice was an Elvis movie. Beauty pageants are certainly not as culturally huge in Australia as they are in the USA and I tend to think of them, perhaps unfairly, as lacking substance.

I assume that the FQP and other drag pageants in the more formalised systems are probably more about queering the status quo of the All-American beauty pageant than they are about bikinis and world peace. This concept is more interesting to me, sits more comfortably with my values and it injects some cultural/political substance into the pageant institution.

In a series of interviews I have conducted with Faux Queens, some interesting explanations of particular drag pageants have been given. Miss Trannyshack was described as a coveted pageant but also as one which is a joke about pageantry in itself. This might mean acknowledging the ridiculousness of a competitive beauty pageant culture in the Western World through the performance items and making fun of it with drag and campy styles. The FQP has been described to me as a drag show in disguise as a pageant.

I’m looking forward to getting to know more about drag/queer pageants. I thing I’m going to like them more than the blue judgement sheet!


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